While watching this week’s episode of The Morning Show, I kept thinking about the song “Goodbye Earl.”
The 1999 ditty by the Chicks tells the story of Wanda and her best friend Mary Anne who decide the only way to deal with Wanda’s abusive husband is to kill him. The tongue-in-cheek song’s upbeat tempo belies its disturbing plotline, but there’s one line I just couldn’t get out of my head: “Well, the weeks went by and spring turned to summer and summer faded into fall and it turns out he was a missing person who nobody missed at all.”
Will anyone miss Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell)? I don’t think so because, sing it with me now, “Mitch had to die, goodbye Mitch!”
Unlike Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) on Homeland, who had to die because his character was long past serving his purpose, or Grey’s Anatomy’s Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), who had to die because he was leaving one of television’s greatest romances, Mitch is a character who never should have existed in the first place. Nothing against Steve Carell, who did the best he could with subpar material, but honestly what purpose did he serve?
Let me be clear: The Morning Show is a bad show made worse by the fact that everyone involved seems to be under the mistaken impression they are on a good show and producing not only entertaining but important television. But even if we collectively decide to forgive the show for having only one note (the characters scream at each other all the time) and for plots that chase their own tail (honestly, Mark Duplass’ Chip just needs to enter witness protection so they can’t bring him back to produce the show anymore), the Mitch character has never made an ounce of sense.
Obviously inspired by Matt Lauer’s fall from grace, Mitch was a beloved morning news anchor who—by his own admission—had to “pretend to be amused by four different meteorologists” over his 15 years of being the person viewers wake up to. In the show’s very first episode, Mitch is fired after allegations of sexual misconduct are reported in The New York Times. His defense is along the lines of “sure, I slept with subordinates but I’m not as bad as Harvey Weinstein.” He is under the very wrong impression that there’s some sort of sliding scale for sexual predators. Yes that’s inane, but also the show never did anything with that idea. Did the series want to unpack the psychology of a white man who thought he could do whatever he wanted without any consequences? If so, that’s never something the writers even attempted to do.
The Morning Show never seemed to know what to do with the Mitch character or what purpose he served. We all would have been much better off if we never saw Mitch at all, or the drama exclusively dealt with the fallout of Mitch’s egregious behavior. We never heard from Matt Lauer again did we?
Yet things took a totally bizarre turn this season as the show, for reasons only the writers can possibly know and understand, continued to follow Mitch. This time, to a multi-million dollar villa in Italy where he had lots of time to walk around looking glum. In the previous episode, “La Amara Vita,” his former co-anchor Alex (Jennifer Aniston) secretly flew to Italy amid COVID (sure why not?) to confront Mitch because there’s a tell-all book coming out in which Mitch doesn’t flat-out deny that he and Alex slept together. Alex and Mitch then spent the majority of the episode screaming at each other. “I just don’t want you to think that I’m evil,” Mitch lamented. “Could you teach me, Alex? I want to be better. I want to be a better person.” It appears the two have made up until the latest allegations reveal that Mitch specifically targeted women of color. A winner to the end, Mitch says, “I’m attracted to them. I’m old enough to remember when that was considered progressive.” He. Is. So. Gross.
“La Amara Vita” ends with Mitch sleeping with Paola (Valeria Golino), the Italian documentary filmmaker he met after she slaps him and yells “show me your big fucking balls.” (I honestly have absolutely no idea what on Earth the show is trying to do.) She needs cigarettes so Mitch heads out in the dark hours of the morning to get her some. Drowsy, he narrowly misses hitting a truck head-on as his car swerves off a cliff. A look of peace seems to come over Mitch as he flashes back to dancing with Alex and his car plummets over the edge.
The latest episode, “Confirmations,” follows The Morning Show team as they get word of Mitch’s rumored death and frantically work to find two independent confirmations that Mitch has, in fact, died. Because they’re a respected news organization (ha ha!) they also want to notify Mitch’s ex-wife Paige (Embeth Davidtz) and children before the news breaks. Chip, fearing Alex may have been in the car with Mitch, throws up all over Cory’s (Billy Crudup) table. Later, Alex and Chip—clearly mired in a dysfunctional work relationship—yell and scream things like “I hate you so much” at each other. Paige refuses any sympathy from Alex and lets her know that she’s always known that Mitch and Alex slept together. “You two were made for each other,” Paige spits out at Alex. Bradley’s brother shows up at the studio and tells everyone that their father was in a drunk driving accident when they were kids and killed someone. What a lark this show is!
The episode closes with Bradley (Reese Witherspoon) announcing Mitch’s death live on air. “His television career was illustrious,” Bradley intones with gravity. “In his personal life and behind the scenes on this show he leaves a more tarnished legacy. Reconciling who we were with who we are with who we want to be is challenging.”
Oh what profound words! I’m kidding. Honestly, what is the show talking about? The only nice thing I have to say about the entire episode is that Bradley had a really cute dress on.
Sing it with me now…Goodbye Mitch!
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer and a member of the Television Critics Association. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal).
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